NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 29, 2006

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has proposed listing polar bears as "threatened" on the government's list of imperiled species, a step below "endangered," a category reserved for those facing imminent extinction.  The Center for Biological Diversity says polar bears are endangered due to melting Arctic sea ice cover.

However, a  report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Mitch Taylor, a polar bear biologist, says polar bears have, and will continue to, adapt to their environment, and are not being pushed to the brink of extinction by global warming. 

According to Taylor and other scientists, the actual number of polar bears in the wild is not a cause for alarm:

  • Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or are increasing in number.
  • Although the current population of polar bears is said to have dwindled to 22,000 to 25,000, a half-century ago there were only 8,000 to 10,000 polar bears.
  • Much of the increase has been due to hunting restrictions.

As for the reported weight loss of the bears; it may be because increasing populations are competing for the same food supply, which, ironically, a little warming might help:

  • A reduction in ice cover creates a better habitat for seals, which are the bears' main food.
  • Less ice cover means more sunlight producing more phytoplankton, increasing the supply of other food sources.
  • On land, blueberries, which the bears adore, would become more plentiful; Taylor says he's seen bears so full of blueberries they waddle.

"Life may be good," Taylor said, "but good news about polar bear populations does not seem to be welcomed by the Center for Biological Diversity. It is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years based on media-assisted hysteria."

Source: Editorial, "Those Bad News Bears," Investor's Business Daily, December 29, 2006.


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